A little spring cleaning of your data goes a long way

For most nonprofits and associations, January is a slower(ish) month filled with strategic planning for the upcoming year, allocating grant monies, and regrouping from the end of Q4. It is a month perfectly positioned for a bit of spring cleaning of the dirty, inaccurate, unused, and duplicate data cluttering up your databases and CRM. It is also a time to finally address the ‘technical debt’ accumulating over years of short-term fixes that haven’t addressed underlying business problems with well-defined processes. 

Donor data in a nonprofit can provide insights into giving behavior and help inform future fundraising campaigns or identify potential major donors. Association executives and membership teams should be able to use member data to identify trends related to membership growth or renewal rates and engagement that may indicate areas of strength or improvement. Data can tell a story that has the power to influence an organization’s plans for success towards goals. Since data can tell a story, the story told by dirty data can be misleading, incomplete, and completely inaccurate. Not a very fun story to read and likely doesn’t make sense.

So, in the spirit of spring cleaning and anti-procrastination, we have outlined our recommendations for taking back control of your Salesforce org, creating a culture of healthy data, and alleviating your technical debt. 

Set the organization-wide standard for data quality 

Gather the stakeholders in the organization who are data owners, stewards, or custodians and commit to not deviating from the Database of Record (DBOR) as the primary source of truth for member and donor data. Then, take an inventory of the types of data stored in the CRM, who is currently using that data, and who would benefit from having more access and deeper insight. Decide on a standard for daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance procedures for a healthy CRM. Decide upon your policy with data retention – how long you need to keep data, especially when donor or member accounts become inactive or have gone cold. 

Start cleaning dirty data at the root 

Going to the source of the bad data and identifying the issue at the root saves time. Do any of these examples ring true at your organization? 

Duplicate, incomplete, inaccurate, and conflicting data causes myriad problems. From reporting incorrect fundraising campaign metrics to communicating ineffectively with members to missing an opportunity to secure a significant donor, dirty data is usually the number one suspect. 

Make sure you have the necessary resources to measure data accuracy 

Leveraging tools can help ensure your data is accurate. These tools work for you in real time so you can get to your clean data destiny much faster. They help mitigate problems before being released into the database. Precise, accurate, complete, relevant, and reliable data allow nonprofits and associations to curate their success confidently. 

Evaluate your technical debt

Dirty data and technical debt are closely intertwined. Salesforce Optimizer is a native app that evaluates your Salesforce org, helping to scale rapidly by identifying hidden inefficiencies and technical debt. By evaluating Salesforce orgs for extra features, wasted workflows, or other outdated solutions, Salesforce Optimization allows organizations to improve their operations without investing too much time or money. 

Implement your new data hygiene practice 

Daily data maintenance and governance are critical to ensure the data in the CRM remains meaningful, even if it is immaculate. Once you’ve created a solid foundation of pristine data and properly addressed your technical debt, start “cleaning as you go.” It will create ripple effects of quicker donor retention cycles, more informed decision-making, increased productivity, and greater profitability. 

Take heart – when you have worked hard, and your data is a sight to behold, the rest of the year doesn’t look so daunting. In the simple words of Michael Scott, the World’s Best Boss, “If you do your spring cleaning in January, guess what you don’t have to do in the Spring?”